The economy added 165,000 jobs in April, according to the Labor Department. That was more than the 140,000 jobs economists expected, and it marked an improvement over March.
The even bigger story, though, came from large revisions to earlier numbers. It’s a common practice for the Labor Department to revise its data for the two prior months, and this time, those revisions showed an additional 114,000 jobs were added in the U.S. economy over February and March alone.
Previously, March hiring had looked particularly weak, with only 88,000 jobs added that month. Now, the Labor Department says 138,000 jobs were added in March.
February job growth, which had already looked solid, now looks even stronger. About 332,000 jobs were added in February, making it the strongest month for hiring since the Census hired temporary workers in 2010.
The report goes a long way “toward soothing fears of another spring slowdown,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics. Stocks jumped, and the S&P 500 climbed above the 1,600 level for the first time ever, following the report.
The strongest job growth in April came from restaurants and bars, which added 38,000 jobs; temporary services, which added 31,000 jobs; and retailers, which added 29,000 jobs. On the flip side, the government is now the biggest drag on the job market. Overall, federal, state and local governments cut 11,000 jobs in April.
The bigger picture, however, remains static. About 11.7 million people remain unemployed — a number that only includes those who have looked for work in the prior four weeks. Workers who have given up on the job market are not counted.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.5% in April, but that’s still high compared to historical levels. Before the recession hit, the unemployment rate was 4.5%.
“This is a classic ‘hold-steady’ report — enough job growth to keep the unemployment rate stable but not much more,” said Heidi Shierholz, economist with the Economic Policy Institute. “In good times, this would be fine, but at a time like this, it represents an ongoing disaster.”
Overall, the U.S. economy lost 8.7 million jobs in the financial crisis, and since then has added about 6.2 million jobs back.
Once you factor population growth into the mix, Shierholz estimates there is still a gap of 8.6 million jobs missing from the U.S. economy. If hiring keeps up at its current pace, it will take about five more years to get back to a pre-recession job market.
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